There’s a cardinal rule in moviemaking, do what you want to people, but whatever you do, DO NOT hurt a dog. Something, I feel, the filmmakers for this (new to Netflix) movie Love and Monsters, kept in mind, but those that made John Wick (2014) did not. But before we get to this aforementioned dog, let’s set the scene.
Love and Monsters is a post-apocalyptic comedy, of sorts. The premise goes that the world averts a giant meteor with missiles, but the fallout from said missiles mutates the Earth’s wildlife into giant monsters. Normally this setup would lead us to Pacific Rim (2013) or Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), something like that, but Love and Monsters feels spiritually closer in tone to Zombieland (2009), maybe with a splash of I Am Legend (2007), given the dog, and Honey I Shrunk The Kids (1989) with the gargantuan insects.
Our hero is Joel, played by Dylan O’Brien, someone I last saw playing the po-faced, pouty hero in YA post-apocalyptic The Maze Runner (2014-2018) series of movies. Here, though, he’s transformed. His self-deprecating side comes out, which immediately made me think of Evan Peters as Quicksilver – not least because O’Brien looks a lot like him, he also sounds like him when doing comedy. Whatever the reason, he makes Joel genuinely sweet and endearing, albeit somewhat naive at first to the dangers of the world. And therein we have his character arc. His quest, should he choose to accept it, is to travel 85 miles across monster infested land to reunite with his pre-apocalypse girlfriend, Aimee (Jessica Henwick) – who some of you may have last seen in TV show Iron Fist (2017-2018). She’s also in upcoming The Matrix 4 (2021).
A crash course in survival
So on his quest, Joel finds a loveable dog. Man’s best friend and all that – especially in an apocalypse. His conversations with the dog put me in mind of Tom Hanks in Castaway (2000) with Wilson. Although at least a dog can react more than a volleyball can. The dog, named Boy, gets Joel out of quite a few scrapes, until he meets capable survivors Clyde (Michael Rooker) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt). These two give our hero a crash course in survival, they’re also very loveable characters – and quickly feel like family to Joel.
Incidentally, both Rooker and Greenblatt are Marvel actors. Rooker being Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Greenblatt played a young Gamora in Avengers Infinity War (2018)). Greenblatt also reminded me of Hailee Steinfeld back when she was in True Grit (2010) – the same wit, fire and way of holding the screen. Greenblatt is very much one to watch in the future. It’s also nice to see Rooker get a nice good role outside of Marvel or working with director, James Gunn. I admit, I half want a Clyde and Minnow spin-off TV show now.
Tremors and fairytales
So along the way our hero has to fight a variety of monsters – all lovingly created. One which is totally a nod to Tremors (1990) in the best way possible. However, not all monsters Joel encounters are mindless beasts. As Minnow points out in a small but important scene, one which put me in mind of the movie Monsters (2010), not all of them are out to kill you, ‘it’s in their eyes’. It’s a touching moment – and one you might not expect from this sort of movie.
Yet this film has many like it, quietly sneaking up on you when you least expect it. A heartfelt scene Joel has with a robot springs to mind – reminding us there’s beauty, love and hope out there, especially in those we encounter on our journeys in life.
Never say die…
I read a review that said Love and Monsters is entirely forgettable after you watch it, but I disagree. It plays like a fairytale like The Princess Bride (1987) or Willow (1988) and has a lot of heart and warmth. It’s also perfectly timed in terms of its Netflix release. As the world emerges from a global pandemic the film’s message about not hiding away and giving up hits home – and will leave you feeling uplifted and hopeful about the future.
Note: Don’t watch the official trailer. It gives away most of the biggest moments of the movie and, in some cases, is a little misleading. The Netflix trailer that auto-plays when you land on this movie on Netflix is a much better way to get a sense of it.